UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

Life On Tour

Life On Tour
Dan Keyes

April 25, Potomac River, Day One

Dan writes:

Up at 3:30 a.m., out the door at 4:30. With Annie, believe it or not. She's got to have the truck during the day.

Take-off is at 6 a .m. We are boat number ninety-something. That's bad. My plan for the day was to run up to the lighthouse. If I could get that spot to myself, and those fish are still there, then it's a quick limit, and I would want to stay there all day guarding that spot.

Of course boat number ninety-something is not nearly low enough to get there first, and there is a boat already working it as I cruise past. You probably could put two or even three boats in there, it wouldn't be against the rules, but it would definitely make the first guy mad. I kept the throttle down and zipped on by at 67mph.

Two minutes later I set down on my other spot. It was raining and windy. Yesterday was calm and bright. I didn't know if this would effect my fish or not. I did know that I felt pressure to make this spot produce, since I had sold it to my partner last night. The tide was very high this morning, and my first pass down the bank I made real shallow, pitching the jig up against the bank, into the laydown trees and the root systems of the standing trees. I had one or two bites and missed them both. We drifted around the corner into the slack water, and between us caught three fish in the next couple hundred yards. All were short though.

I turned around and went back the other way. Instead of pitching to the bank this time, I stayed out deeper and pitched to what looked like, at this tide level, open water. I quickly caught my first keeper, on the Terminator jig. After depositing him in the livewell and re-tying my line, I fought the current back up to where I'd just caught him. Twenty feet from that spot I got that oh-so-sweet jig tap, reeled down a couple of times and reared back on it. Wow! This was a fish! Bigger than anything I had seen all week! She leaped out of the water and tried to throw the jig. Like every other fish this week though, this one had really sucked the bait in, and there was no way she was going to shake it out. When she finally came to the net and was safely aboard, I think that was the moment when both Jim and I acknowledged that we'd made the right decision to come up here today. It was 7:30 a .m . and I had two fish that weighed 7 1/2 pounds.

By keeping the boat out and pitching out away from the bank, but still well inside the grassline, I had a five fish limit by eleven o'clock. One of them was so close though, I was afraid that by the time we got back to the weigh-in it wasn't going to measure. I asked Jim if he'd mind if we stayed there a little longer until I got one more good one. I'd had about twenty-five bites, and caught fifteen or sixteen fish. Jim had nothing, maybe three or four shorts. He said "Dan, you're really smoking me here today. You do whatever you want the rest of the day and I'll stay out of your way." He had tried every bait in his box, and just couldn't make 'em bite.

We stayed on this spot for four more hours, watching the tide drop out. Fishing
slowed significantly, as it had every day this week, and I never got another keeper bite. What we did see though was that instead of it being open water where I was catching these fish, really there was a series of boulders in about three feet of water. This has to be what the fish are holding on. With twenty minutes of fishing time left we finally gave up on this spot and headed back. I told Jim I wanted to stop at the lighthouse if there was no one there. A guy was pulling up his trolling motor and leaving just as we pulled in. I picked up my magic jig (as I had begun calling it by this time) and made a cast. Nothing. I made a second cast, and was not even paying attention, talking to Jim and positioning the boat, when my line just took off and headed south. I reeled down and yanked. A fish! Here she comes! A good one! A solid three-pounder! My culling fish.

Jim just shook his head in amazement. We had pulled in to a spot that another boat had left just seconds before. I catch a three pound'er on my second cast.
The first thing I did after netting that fish was cut off that jig and hand it to Jim. He said "What are you doing?" I said "Are you kidding? I could be leading this tournament right now, in large part because you let me do my thing today. Now I've got my limit, and it's your turn to try this magic jig."

We ran out of time before Jim could make it work. After a nasty ride back to the weigh-in, which we just barely made in time (why do I keep doing this to myself???), I signaled to Annie when I saw her on the bank that I had five fish. She flashed five fingers, two times. "Ten pounds?" I flashed fifteen. I'm surprised she didn't faint. She told me later that she was thinking "He'd better not be kidding me!"

I was bagging up my fish, and there was one more in there who was oh-so close to the fifteen-inch line. These beat-em-up boat rides are bad for the fish. I measured him once - short. Rolled him over - still short. Rolled him again - still short... no wait! He touched the line! Was his mouth closed? Close his mouth. Measure... short. Try again. He touches. Mouth open though. Darn! What am I going to do?

Decision time. Do I throw back a two-and-a-half pound fish? Or risk it, and see
if the officials can make him measure on their board. There is a big penalty if I lose this gamble. But there is also no guarantee that I can catch 'em this good tomorrow. I decide to risk it.

Up at the official's measuring board, it doesn't look good. There are two guys checking fish, and both of them are volunteers. I've made this gamble before, and I've found that you always want to get the guy with the most experience. Nothing against these guys, but neither of them look like they do this for a living. I hand my bag to one of them, and he dumps the fish in the tank. Four fish aren't even considered for measuring, and in fact draw ooh's and aah's from the onlookers. They're put back in the bag and what remains is just the one.

He gets measured. Short. Again. Short. The official is muttering that he's not going to make it. By this time we've drawn a crowd around the tank. Someone else steps up from behind and says "Let me try it." He measures... once, short, twice, short, three times... "He touched! He touched the line! Did you see that?!" "Five fish!" declares the official, and into the bag he goes.
Up on stage the weighmaster, Fish Fishburne, is up to his usual antics. The fisherman in front of me has his family in the crowd, and Fish insists on weighing one of his young children. Hurry up! Hurry up! My fish are drying out here while I wait. Finally it's my turn. Fourteen pounds, fourteen ounces. Some people are saying I'm in the lead, others say 2nd place by one ounce. I don't know for sure. What I do know is that it feels awfully good to be up here in this position, telling Fish that I've got a magic bait that outfished my partner more than five-to-one, that all day long I never had another boat move in on me, and that I'm really excited about going out there and fishing again tomorrow.

Off the stage I kiss my wife, sign some autographs, do an interview with Bass Times and another with a local paper. Next it's over to the ESPN camera crew. All of these guys I know very well from having worked in the camera boats so many times in the past. They are more excited than I to have the chance to get me in front of the cameras tomorrow instead of behind.

We meet up with my partner for tomorrow. Another local angler, Jason Strobel, he has a reputation as a big-fish fisherman, and he knows the D.C. area like the back of his hand. Also, according to reports, he would be leading this tournament right now if he had landed all of the fish he had on today, or had his boat not broken down. As it is he weighed three fish for over nine pounds, is in twentieth-something place. He has a shot at it. This is not good for me. The worst part though is that he's a young guy, this is his first-ever B.A.S.S. tournament, and he is just way, way over-excited.

Of course the best draw for me would have been someone who caught no fish today, and who offers to just ride with me tomorrow and let me do my thing all day. That's not what I got. Jason did agree to go in my boat, and to fish my fish in the morning, but he kept insisting that if it didn't work out, he had tons of places to go up there to catch jig fish. He lost two four-pounder's today. He might be leading right now if he had landed those fish. Did I mention that he was over-excited? This is not what I need - someone who is going to be wanting to pull me off of my fish all day. So even though I proved my fish to today's partner, I'm now faced with proving it all over again tomorrow morning.

Tags: daniel-and-annie-keyes  article 

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